The urge to “go green” in the current digital world is stronger than ever. Unfortunately, while cloud computing is among the revolutionary technological advances with significant business benefits, it largely contributes to increased carbon emissions. With the recent buzz in cloud computing, organizations have realized that switching to public cloud storage not only provides scalability and flexibility but also cuts costs.
However, what most don’t realize is that cloud computing is not only beneficial to the workplace. Cloud storage has significant environmental benefits. Processing and managing data on local servers increases carbon emissions. According to the EPA, data centers account for over 1.5% of electricity usage in the U.S. If not checked, carbon emissions will increase to 680 million tons.
Switching to the cloud means that few efficiently powered servers are used, significantly reducing carbon impacts.
What Makes Cloud Environmentally Friendly?
Like the benefits of public transport to the environment, cloud technologies are greener than traditional IT data infrastructures. If you own a vehicle, you should think about fueling, maintenance, and parking space. The same applies to in-house data storage. You should not only be concerned about data storage hardware but also where to store the servers, pay for electricity, make upgrades and repairs, and hire cybersecurity professionals.
Using the cloud is synonymous with public transport. You can access it anywhere, anytime you need it. You only have to pay for subscriptions to cloud storage service providers. Cloud storage service providers support the technological needs of thousands of businesses simultaneously. This means that businesses use fewer resources and energy. Cloud storage data centers also use efficient power.
A Microsoft study found that cloud computing is 93% energy efficient and delivers 98% less carbon emission than on-premise data storage centers. Most cloud servers also use renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, and geothermal. With minimal greenhouse gas emitted by these energy sources, switching to the cloud can make your organization sustainable.
That said, below are a few factors that make cloud storage environmentally friendly:
- Better Infrastructure
Most public cloud storage centers are located close to powering facilities, which prevents large energy losses typically experienced during the transmission of electrical energy for long distances. Traditional data centers don’t have much choice of location unless they are being constructed by giant companies with sufficient financial muscle, such as Yahoo or Facebook. Cloud data centers have superior hardware that uses less wattage.
- High Utilization Rates
Companies that use their private data centers have lower utilization rates than cloud data centers. Most of such companies purchase and set up large equipment anticipating usage spikes, which rarely occur. This cannot be compared to the cloud, which serves thousands.
- Regular Hardware Upgrades
Traditional data centers have low utilization rates, meaning it would take several months before an upgrade or replacement is done. Upgrading or replacing these servers is also expensive and leads to significant downtime. However, the hardware on the public cloud has a higher utilization rate. This means they have a short lifecycle and regular replacement and upgrades. Upgrading public servers is also cost-efficient and allows cloud service providers to leverage new technologies.
- Reduced Energy Consumption
Traditional data centers require high maintenance and an uninterrupted power supply. Moving these programs to the cloud saves a lot of energy. A case study by LBNL found that moving basic business software, such as CRM and email, to the cloud saves enough energy to power Los Angeles for one year.
Shifting to a Greener Cloud
Multiple cloud service providers have adapted several strategies to promote green cloud storage. These efforts primarily focus on improving efficiency in the following sectors:
- Energy Management
An important aspect of green cloud storage is using renewable energy to power data centers. While powering all data centers using renewable energy is far-fetched, cloud service providers should target using at least 50% of renewable energy from solar or wind. That aside, energy should be stored in battery banks to be used when enough energy can’t be produced.
- Smart Infrastructure
Cloud providers should work on deploying software and hardware that consumes less energy to minimize carbon footprint. Using hardware that consumes less power, such as dynamic voltage, allows for optimized use of resources to save power.
- Cloud Facility
Green cloud computing goes beyond leveraging renewable sources of energy. Cloud service providers should implement adequate measures to support energy efficiency in their data centers. For instance, cloud providers should consider constructing data centers underground, on ocean floors, or in cold locations to save on energy and resources required to cool these centers.
Cloud service providers should also find ways of using the heat generated within data centers. Ensuring energy efficiency also calls for adopting innovative technologies for monitoring and optimizing energy consumption. They should derive valuable insights on data consumption to maximize air circulation and modify floor layout. S
The Bottom Line
Green cloud computing is becoming an absolute necessity for a sustainable future. Fortunately, cloud storage service providers have understood the benefits of integrating green cloud technology into the environment.